Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oikos - The Supernatural - Pastor Chris Reinhard

According to Barna research our nation is becoming less and less religious and more and more spiritual. People are looking for answers and they have begun to realize there is more to this world than they see with their eyes. The prior generations belief as a nation leaned more towards a deism, morality and religion. Deism is the belief that there is a God, but he does not supernaturally interact with this world. He created it, and now he has allowed it to run it's course. On the other hand, the current generations do not necessarily believe there is a God, maybe many, or maybe it's just "The Force." But, these generations are extremely open to the supernatural. Just take some time to peruse the TV shows that people are watching, the movies that come out and books that are grabbing attention. Many of them have a supernatural bent.

As believers we have no business messing with the spiritual world outside of God. But for the unbelievers that have opened the doors it gives us a unique opportunity. People are more open than they have been to the paranormal and supernatural, and our God specializes in just that. It is our job to point them to Him for answers.

"2 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands."  (Acts 17)

Like Paul, let us all pray that God will help us use peoples openness to the supernatural and paranormal to point them to Christ. Also pray that God will reveal himself to those looking for answers. 

We don't need to blaze the trails, we just need to look for the roads that God has paved.

God Bless
Pastor Chris


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Real People by Linden Malki

I am constantly reminded, in reading the Bible, how little people have changed over millenia. It is refreshingly honest about the ups and downs, triumphs and flubs, and just plain real these folks are. But I am also becoming more and more aware that we are created with potentials for both good and bad that are beyond our human abilities to handle. One answer is to accept our human limitations, and just ride with "I'm only human.." as an excuse for (sorry) laziness. Another is to work really really really hard to reach goals beyond ourselves, which can leave us tired and frustrated, or finding that we can achieve only at the cost of losing other parts of our lives. Or we can look for help in all the wrong places--chemicals, or unhealthy relationships, or sources of power that are not in our best interest. Or we can recognize the power that we were created to have, but as a race have lost, ironically. in reaching for power on our own terms.

The Bible is not just a rulebook; it is a storybook of people who have been called into a relationship that changes their lives and we see them doing amazing things; and also of people who will not submit to this relationship and are used by forces that do not have humanity's best interest in their playbook.

We are all in one of these places. I have found that following Jesus has led me places I could not have imagined, and taken care of me in ways that are way off the probability curve. And this is what we have to offer our Oikos, the folks that see us as we really are: more than just run-of-the-mill human beings. A friend who lives in one of the assisted living facilities where our Choir Team did a recent gospel music program told me that this music is different than the music that we usually hear around us; there is an additional spiritual dimension when it is offered and received for the glory of God. Our lives as His followers have this aura. We are not called to "sell" God through our own brilliant reasoning or canned logic, or even bribery--God is not our personal shopping channel--but to live in this dimension.  One of my business associates walked away from what was presented to him as God at some point in his life, and I have watched well-meaning Christians--one of whom is a professional evangelist--preach themselves out against his defenses. I am realizing that I, and others in our oikos, are called to be Christians who do not fit the template that he has rejected. We sometimes feel as if we're crashing through the wilderness, when we are really called to follow where He has already broken the trail.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Worship With God, 8-15 - Dougie Spence

Two problems tend to occur when we have a goal set in front of us. One problem is that distractions arise and take us away from achieving our goal. The other is when we put the blinders on; missing everything going on around us, we may achieve the goal but we miss out on opportunities that could have been bigger than the goal itself.
 When it comes to everyday life we generally see the need to address focus issues, but do we spend the time to address these issues when it comes to our jobs as Christians? In order to align our focus I think we need to clarify our goal first. It is easy to get caught up in fellowship, worship, and preaching aspects of the Christian faith. What we forget is that the number one goal we have in this life is sharing the gospel. That is what Christ told us to do before he ascended into heaven, and that is the only reason why we are still here.
Don’t get me wrong, I think fellowship, worship, and preaching are all awesome aspects of the Christian life. But there is no way that they are better here on earth than they are up in heaven. Can you imagine how great it will be to worship in the throne room of God, singing with the angels, while also fellowshipping with the great legends and prophets of the Bible? That will be truly amazing and nothing like anything we will ever experience on earth. So if the goal of a Christian is any of these things wouldn’t God take us home the moment we accepted Him?
Often we get so caught up in worship and fellowship that we forget our real goal; that is when these things become distractions to our ultimate goal. We need to focus on the lost souls, and focus on bringing our oikos closer to a relationship with Christ. Enjoy these times spent in worship and with other Christians but don’t let them distract you from the Goal Christ gave you.
The other scenario we come across is the blinders. Just because God gave us a task to complete (playing worship, writing a book, sharing Christ with a friend, etc.) doesn’t mean we should shut ourselves off from everything else going on around us. Sometimes God puts curveball in our path and if our blinders are on we will miss it entirely. If we get so focused on one task we may miss an opportunity to share Christ with a person or group of people that we never imagined could have happened.
In essence; let’s remember to not get distracted from our goal, but keep your mind and eyes open to the random opportunities God places right in the middle of our path. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pop That Bubble! by Linden Malki

A friend of my daughter's was telling her that she didn't worry at all about her teenagers--between family, good friends, school and church they didn't have any opportunity to get into trouble. My daughter said she thought there was something wrong with this picture, but couldn't quite put her finger on it. After some thought, my suggestion was "What good are they to anybody, in the eternal sense?" In the context of the book we are reading,*  the question is "Are they changing their world?" 

It's a temptation for Christians to want to live like my daughter's friend--in what is sometimes called the Christian Bubble. It reminds me a bit of what Nehemiah felt called to make of the Jerusalem of 400BC. After a thousand years of patriarchs and prophets telling them what God needed for them to be the people He intended them to be, and then getting involved with bad stuff with bad neighbors, cleaning up their act, and falling in the mud again, Nehemiah closed them off from the outside world. If you look at Isaiah, Zecheriah, Amos, Jonah, and most of the other prophets, you see that the "Chosen People" were called to be a pilot project; to show God to the world. Instead, in finally  facing God, they turned their backs to their neighbors. Their descendants, faced with Jesus, were horribly frustrated and eventually murderous because He wouldn't fit in their bubble. Jesus' mission was to enable us to withstand evil through His strength and His Grace, not by avoiding outsiders but overcoming their bad influences by putting on His armor and showing something better. Those outside His Kingdom often live in bubbles as well, and are not always willing to look beyond their own selves. Our calling is to live, as Jesus said, in the world but not of it. The Church has always been built on those who are willing to have their bubbles popped, and spiritual soap splattered on them.  
* Tom Mercer, "8 to 15:The World Is Smaller Than You Think"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Focus On Your Oikos, 8-15, - Dougie Spence

My sister and I are a lot alike. We grew up with the same parents, went to the same schools, grew up on classic rock, and we even love quoting the same movies together. We both have the same religious and political views (though she argues politics a little more intensely than I do), but at the end of the day we are not the same person. As much as we are similar we are that much more different.
A major difference is that she is a girl, obviously I am not. She was in the military, I love the military but cannot speak about it in the same way she can. I rock climb four days a week, she has been a few times but could not keep a conversation going on the topic. She works in the medical field, when I am around her work friends I feel like I am talking to aliens about things that happen on other planets. I love to write, her biggest writing samples these days are on Facebook about what she had for dinner.
If a brother and sister can have so many different experiences, how many more would you and your church friends have? This is an awesome thing. Our differences mean that we can relate to so many more people. My sister’s experiences lead her to places and people that I will never meet. So she has an opportunity to talk to people in a way that I cannot. Just as my experiences will lead me to people and places that your experiences will not.
This is what makes oikos evangelism so perfect. We are able to interact with the people in our oikos like no one else ever could. So instead of trying to reach everybody, try to reach the friends that you naturally have. If you are a police officer it is going to be natural for you to talk to other law enforcement, nurses are probably not going to be your natural group of people. Whereas someone like my sister can easily speak to a nurse (in alien language), and not be able to talk to the guy in your office that you work with everyday.
Trying to share Christ with everyone in the world can be quite intimidating. That is why it is the job of the entire body, not just a single member. When we focus on the 8-15 God puts in front of us, the influence can touch the world. I can share with my family and friends, who can then share with people I may never be able to meet. We are able to reach the world, one oikos at a time.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oikos: Seek and Save - Pastor Chris Reinhard

"For many the purpose of the church is to make sure that Christians become more and more obedient. Early on, that's the one that stuck with me - we attended church so that we would make fewer mistakes this week than we did last week." - Tom Mercer, Oikos: 8 to 15

Going to church to become more obedient would be like joining the army to get into shape. In both cases we  have completely missed the mission. Do we as Christians need to learn to be more obedient? Yes. Should we be attempting to make fewer mistakes this week than we did last week? Yes. Is that our goal. No. 

God has given us a mission, and obedience is what helps us complete it. We must learn to keep the main thing the main thing and focus on it until it drives everything we do. Why did Jesus come? To seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and what was his command to us, make disciples and teach them to obey Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). Why teach them to obey? So they can accomplish the mission. What is the mission? Make Disciples. How did Jesus model this for us? By coming to seek and save the lost.

We need to go out into the world, find the lost and point them to Christ. Teaching them to obey him so they too have the ability to complete the primary mission, to seek and save the lost. 

A well behaved church, with no desire to share the gospel, is like a strong and fit army that is not willing to fight in the battle, they are both useless. 

Pastor Chris

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Here I Am--by Linden Malki

The call of God on our life begins very simply: the answer He wants is "Here I Am" . He doesn't ask us to clean up our act (yet) because we can't do it right on our own; He has to be a basic part of this process. And it has to start from where we are. If we don't know where we are, we can't get to where we need to be. I recall John and I trying to find a church in Oakland for a cousin's wedding. We had directions, we had a map. They were not doing us any good until we found out where we actually were--which was on the other side of Lake Merritt from where we thought we were. From there, it was easy! (And no, we weren't late.) 

That was the first line in the relationship God has with His people--we read of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah. Saul of Tarsus thought he was doing the work of God, but caused incredible havoc until God knocked him off his donkey and brought him face to face with Jesus. A good friend of mine in an adult group at Calvary Baptist told of having been walking down a street in San Bernardino when God told her "Margaret! Get to church!". And she did. Or like Saul, sometimes we think we know God, until He confronts us with who we really are, and what we're really doing. 

He's been doing this throughout the history of the church. Augustine's mom had been preaching to him and praying for him his whole life, without result, when God told him to pick up his Bible and read it--and he found Romans 1:16-17 and a whole new life. St Patrick was a slave on a hillside full of sheep in Ireland, when God told him that there was a ship in the harbor for him. Martin Luther had been looking for God in the church, but was confronted with those same verses in Romans, and saw the church of his day as it really was--and what it should have been. Adoniram Judson was on a boat going to Burma when God found him and gave him a new understanding of the Gospel. My great-great uncle was shipwrecked in the Atlantic when God sent him back to Sweden with a new message. 

When He has us where he wants us, He can use us with those He has put in our lives. We can only show as much of God to our "oikos"  as we have of Him in our lives. And we have to deal with people where they are, not where we wish they were, or think they ought to be. Are we the map with the big X that says "You are Here"? That's what we have to know first. My dad used to say that he had never met someone he couldn't learn something from. What are people learning from us, and what can we learn from them? 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Don't Worry About Awkward Moments- Dougie Spence

My church is going through a book called “8 to 15”. I encourage all of you reading this to pick up the book and go through it with us, it will help you in keeping up with the conversations we will be having on this blog.  The basic premise in the book is that God has given us each 8-15 people in our circle of friends (our “oikos”, which is a Greek word meaning our extended household or circle of influence), and it up to us to focus on impacting their lives for the kingdom. In the first week we read chapters 1-3, when you pick up the book you will realize that the chapters are short and to the point.
It is easy for us to recognize the 8-15 people in our lives that we have the most opportunity to share our faith with. These people in our oikos can be other Christians who we are responsible to help encourage further growth in their faith, and it can include people that we work with or hang out with that do not know our Lord and Savior. The latter is the group that we tend to have the hardest time with.
We have all been in that situation where we are hanging out with our co-workers or friends and we know that it would just be so awesome if they knew God. We don’t want to push them away from God and we generally don’t like the idea of looking like an idiot if they ask a question about God that we don’t know the answer to. Honestly, it sounds crazy but they don’t want to make you look like a dummy either. Most of our unsaved friends would love to go to church with us if we just asked them to. They don’t expect you to have all the answers; they just want to know the answers that you do have.
Chapter 3 had some crazy stats that I never had a clue about. 96% of the unchurched  are at least somewhat likely to go to church if they are simply invited. Only 21% of churchgoers actually invite their friends to church in a one year span, but only 2% invite someone who is unchruched in that span! It also turns out that very few of the unchurched had even been told how to become a Christian.
So… your job this coming week is to invite one friend to church. The worst that can happen is they will tell you they just aren’t feeling it. That is not the end of the world, just keep being their friend and wait till they finally come around. But the opposite side of that coin is that they may come to know Christ. I think the latter is way worth the risk.
After you have invited your friend let us know what happened in the comment section. The more we know about your journey with your friends, means that more of us can be praying for your friends. Let’s see what we can do with the 8-15 God has put in our lives!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Oikos is you!

I remember the Lord's prayer plaque that my Great Grandmother hung on the wall of the room when I was four!  Her name was Pearl, but we called her Little.

Mr. and Mrs. Lupo ran Killgors Day camp in Burbank when I was a child.  I remember singing...
"Thanks be to God who gives us bread; thank God for bread!" before we ate!  It was fifty years ago, but I remember feeling something strange when we sang that song!

Kevin and Lorin were boys who lived on Ledge in Burbank.  I was under eight but remember their parents taking me to church, and telling me about the anti-Christ.  Then we moved to Glendale.  I remember praying to God that I wasn't the anti-Christ.  I did not know much, but I did not want to be him!

Judy Lynn was my Junior High School English teacher who invited me to go on a YMCA caravan.  It was on that trip that Judy shared Christ with me.  I prayed to receive Christ sitting beside Bass Lake with Judy.  But God took a back seat until 1977.

In the summer of 1977 I moved in next door to Mr. Stewart.  He would be out front working on his old white MG.  I would attempt to sneak from the front door of my trailer, to my car.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not.  If Mr. Stewart caught me he would ask me to hold something, while he told me about Jesus Christ.

That same summer my friend Mike Willard became a Christian.  He challenged me to read the Bible, and attend a Navigator Bible study with him.  He prayed with me, and for me.

Chaplain Stephenson became my friend on a mountain in Puerto Rico.  I told him about many things, and he told me about Jesus.  God sent him on a mission, to a mountain, to meet a soldier!

Little, the Lupo's, Kevin and Lorin's mom and dad, Judy, Mr. Stewart, Mike,
and Chaplain Stephenson all left a mark on my spiritual memory bank! 

God used many different people to encourage me on my journey of faith.  I was in their OIKOS.  I was one of the people who God had sovereignly and uniquely put in their circle of influence.

It makes me think of the teaching of St. Paul...

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NLT)
5  After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul?
We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News.
Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.
6  I planted the seed in your hearts,
and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.
7  It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering.
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
8  The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.
And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
9  For we are both God’s workers.
And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. 

Only God knows the influence you will have upon those in your OIKOS!
Mike Willard and Mr. Stewart have no idea that I am a pastor!
They have no idea how God used them in my life!
Someday I will see them, and thank them!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oikos 1,2,3: Simple, Not Easy - Pastor Chris

"It would be a mistake to confuse simple with easy..." - Tom Mercer

Weight Loss, Getting in Shape, and Saving Money are just a few of the things in life that are simple but not easy. Another one of those things is evangelism. The plan that Jesus laid out is simple, but it is not easy. His plan is that you would tell people about him. Simple right? There is only one complication, "You." It is not easy, we must do it. We must continue to do it. We must persist at it. Like many other things that are simple but not easy, they only work if we do them, if we follow the plan.

I am not challenging you to stand on a soap box in a busy marketplace, or become a TV evangelist. God has given you 8-15 people in your life. These are people you see and spend time with every week. Let us all commit to do what is hard, and follow the simple plan that God has given us to reach those people in our lives.

Share you story with them. Share what God is doing in your life with them. If they are believers, encourage them. If they are hopeless, share God's hope. If they have troubles, share God's comfort.

Let us all do what is hard, the simple stuff!

Pastor Chris

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One on One--by Linden Malki

Driving on a crowded freeway,or looking at the bustle in an airport, I sometimes wonder where everybody is going-- each person is headed from different places to other different places. Every human crowd, group, organization, institution, gang, whatever, is really nothing more than a collection of individuals, some of whom exert power over others. Everything that happens is done by individuals, acting cooperatively, antagonistically, or individually. And we will each be accountable for one person--ourselves.
Whether we like it or not, most of us are not often alone. We are usually in some sort of interaction or being observed. We are constantly being witnesses to our priorities and our values, even when we aren't even thinking about it. Sometimes avoiding interaction is significant--our being "missing" can affect others.

God created us individuals, no two exactly alike, but He did not create us to be alone. What we do, and how we relate, can be anything from very positive to very negative. We are constantly being faced with choices--do we care about how others see as or how they are affected by what we do? Do we allow others to have too much or too little power over us? Do we respect our obligations and relationships? When people watch us, what are they seeing about our relationships--how we treat others, and what, if any, relationship do we have with God? We need to have our act together in the sight of God and our world, but we also need to realize that we cannot do this to His standards on our own. And its not up to us to tell God what we want Him to make of us--it's up to us to let Him finish making us what He intended all along, one on one.

He deals with each one of us as individuals, but He also works through us with the people He has put in our lives. It is interesting to look at these special people and trace back how they got there. Some are obvious--the family we were born into, but families, especially in the society we live in, take all sorts of shapes. I have two grandchildren who are adopted, and in both cases, the connection between the birth parents and my son and his wife were amazing, with God's hand very obviously present. Sometimes I think God compensated for my own nice relatives by giving me challenging in-laws. At a recent college reunion, part of one event was a time to share how we had gotten to a small, Christian liberal arts college; in most cases, through a recommendation by someone. One person I met at Linfield was from Calvary Baptist, San Bernardino, a place I'd never heard of before that, and how he got to Oregon, and how we got acquainted and kept in occasional touch through the years has God's fingerprints on it. San Bernardino is a very small town in some ways; I keep running into people that are connected somehow with other people I know or am related to. Just yesterday, a guy came into my store who had at one time had a shop across the street from us--but who is originally from Jordan and had known a missionary cousin of mine there. I'm beginning to have a vision of networks of people that form an amazing Family of God.